Posted by Eric Garton on Jan 20, 2020
Welcome to the Elkhart Rotary Club Meeting on January 20, 2020; Today we welcomed Community Foundation of Elkhart County President (and fellow Elkhart Rotarian!) Dr. Pete McCown and Elkhart Greater Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Levon Johnson as they presented the planning work they have been co-leading related to the future of the Tolson Center and Park.

President Candy Yoder opened the meeting and introduced Lisa Guadea-Carreno who shared positive words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led the Pledge, and Four-Way Test to start the meeting.

Welcome table volunteers were Aaron Clow, Merritt Dilts, and Tom McArthur, who also introduced today's guests including: Danita Moody (Erik Shultz), Sally Wicks (Bill Burton), Jane Poe (Steve Poe), and Goshen College Interns at Wellfield Botanic Gardens Mandira Panta, Lydia Dyck, and Rheannon Starr (guests of Eric Garton), . Welcome to ALL, we hope you can all join us again some other time!

Announcements and continuing club reminders for January 20:

  • Salvation Army Fundraising Chair Matt Lentsch announced the final tally for Elkhart Rotary Club's support of Salvation Army this past giving season: $58,149 were raising directly and indirectly from Rotarians for our local Salvation Army Branch; Captain Shawn DeBaar thanked the club from the podium.
  • Caring Committee Chair Fran Conner announced:
    • An upcoming Caring Committee Meeting on Monday, March 16th (third Monday) at 11:15 at the Matterhorn before our Club Meeting.
    • Please continue to keep Rotarian Doc Atkins in your thoughts as he recently lost his wife, Jane, in December; to view Jane's obituary click here.
  • Youth Committee Chair Paul Warning announced:
    • That Interact is sending 14 students/chaperones on this year's service trip to Costa Rica to work at the David Kitson Library in the village of Nosara. THANK YOU to sponsors of our weekly placemats, which partially support the costs associated with the trip.
    • There will be a student exchange program in our District from August 2020 through July 2021 and we'll be looking for host families during small increments of that time - stay tuned if you'd like to host a student and provide a 'Midwest experience' for a student studying abroad.
    • If you know a Rotarian with a high school-aged child/grandchild who may be interested in an OUTbound study abroad, please contact Paul for more information.
  • Don't miss THE BIG EVENT, Wednesday January 22 at The Lerner/Crystal Ballroom; Doors open at 4, program begins at 5.
  • CONTINUING REMINDER: Dean Hupp announced a very generous offer to those who have not received their first Paul Harris Fellowship. In order to stimulate philanthropy, and in conjunction with the District's matching donation program THROUGH JANUARY, Dean has offered to sponsor up to 18 Elkhart Rotarians at $250 (which would be matched by $250 from the District), leaving the member with just $500 to match to attain their first PHF. SEE DEAN ASAP if you would like to take advantage of this generous offer.
  • CONTINUING REMINDER: A message from Doug Risser, if you are interested in a Rotary International and Peace Corps Partnership trip that will be occurring April 18-26, please contact Doug directly.
  • CONTINUING REMINDER: Rotary District 6540 Matching Gifts Campaign continues through January 31, 2020 your personal donation of $100-$5,000 to the Annual Fund of The Rotary Foundation will be matched with FOUNDATION RECOGNITION POINTS. Your matching foundation recognition points can be used in several ways: 
    • For your own Paul Harris designation, at the first level or toward the next multiple. For example, your personal gift of $500 will be matched with 500 points for a total value of $1,000 to achieve designation as a Paul Harris Fellow.
    • To recognize another individual with a full Paul Harris Fellow designation or an initial contribution. For example, your $1000 check will be matched with 1,000 points to award Paul Harris Fellow designation to a relative, a community member, or another Rotarian. 
    • For multiple recognitions, any combination of points designations for yourself and/or other individuals, with a minimum of 100 points per designation. For example, your personal gift of $500 will earn 500 points. You can keep 200 points for yourself to attain the next level, and award 300 points to a deserving new member of your club to inspire future sustaining contributions to the foundation and a future Paul Harris Fellow designation. 
    • INSTRUCTIONS for the matching promotion:
      • Mail a personal check payable to "The Rotary Foundation" to District Rotary Foundation Chair, Judy Walker, including donor information and designating the beneficiary(ies) of the matching points if applicable. 
      • Mail to: Judy Walker, 8421 Manor Ave. #406, Munster, IN 46321
      • Questions? Voice or text 219-680-6557; email
      • Only those donations submitted per the above instructions will be matched
      • Club checks or online donations are not eligible for this offer
Today's Sergeant was Eric Garton, who used today's federal holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr Day, to provide some great trivia in a game called "How well do you know your Kings?" Nice nice job of FUNdraising, everyone! Rotary fun fines are collected weekly and are pooled into a fund throughout the year. In the spring more than $10,000 is distributed as grants to not-for-profit organizations around our county. Thanks, All, for your contributions!

Today's speakers were introduced by Eric Garton who welcomed Elkhart Greater Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Levon Johnson and Community Foundation of Elkhart County President Dr. Pete McCown as they presented the planning work they have been co-leading related to the future of the Tolson Center and Park.
Levon began by describing the process that has occurred to gain insight on community wishes for the site through Tolson Center Conversations, small group feedback sessions held throughout the community over the last year with input from interested citizens and neighbors from the community. This process has been led by the Tolson Center Task force, a group of experienced community members including Levon and Pete, Isaac Torres, Clarence Thomas, Chantella Newsome, Gamiel "Bubba" Reeves, Amish Shah, Krista Hennings, Cindy Lopez Bonner, Nakeisha Alexis, Rick Newbill, Eric Ivory, Randy Norton, Kevin Bullard, Dwight Fish, and Candy Yoder.
Here are some of Levon's slides showing the compiled results from these Tolson Center Conversations, which focused on both the Tolson Center itself, as well as the surrounding Tolson Park. A majority of responses (in order of priority) indicated that focus should be on:
  1. life skills for children
  2. recreational programming for children
  3. academic support for children
  4. community programs for adults
  5. programs for senior citizens, and
  6. being a community space
Future physical needs for the Tolson Center were prioritized as such:
  1. Gym
  2. Classroom space
  3. Fitness equipment
  4. Community meeting room
  5. Group exercise space, and
  6. 'other'
Future physical needs for the Tolson Park, surrounding the center were prioritized as:
  1. Playground
  2. Walking/running trail
  3. Diamon fields (baseball, softball, kickball)
  4. More outdoor basketball
  5. Rectangle Fields (soccer, lacrosse)
  6. Pickleball
  7. 'other'
Pete McCown then presented the concept for the Tolson Center and Park, which included the highest priority: an improved gymnasium, lounge centers/wifi for community use in the space, and meeting spaces, as well as a sample of what the rectangular and diamond fields could look like at this site, based on other existing parks of a similar size/footprint.

Thanks, Levon and Peter, for a very informative presentation about what's happening with Tolson Center and the Park! Please reach out to either if you'd like to give input or be involved with future planning of the Tolson Center and Park.

About Rotary:
Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, community leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and act to create lasting change – across the globe, in our local communities, and in ourselves. The Elkhart Rotary Club was founded in 1917 and serves its community through volunteerism, providing grants to not-for-profit organizations, sponsoring, and participating in service projects such as ringing bells for the Salvation Army, twice-yearly roadside trash collection, and are the originators and continuing supporters of Wellfield Botanic Gardens. Elkhart Rotary Club’s membership consists of approximately 150 dedicated individuals from various professional backgrounds and diverse interests. Membership in the Elkhart Rotary Club is by invitation. We welcome guests to attend any of our meetings and hear from our great lineup of weekly presenters.
For more information on the Elkhart Rotary Club, visit or email Like and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook/ElkhartRotaryClub to stay current on meetings, upcoming events or speakers, and initiatives in the community.
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All meetings are at noon on Mondays at the Matterhorn Banquet and Conference Center, 2041 Cassopolis St. in Elkhart IN, 46514. In months that include a FIFTH Monday, the Elkhart Rotary Club holds an alternative meeting or activity.